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(I Want to be) Like Democracy

Sir Winston Churchill is supposed to have said “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others”.

What he meant by that, of course, is that while no political system is perfect – each has its advantages and disadvantages – he on balance actually preferred democracy. Chances are that he was responding to criticism of the British Parliamentary system of democracy, and his reply was somewhat sarcastic or sardonic.

I wanted to write a song that would discuss the relative benefits of democracy, but would not be limited to a kind of memorization tool for school. I did write the song so that it could possibly be used in class, maybe introducing some political systems ideas to the class in a different way than through note-taking or the more traditional forms of educational introductions to ideas. The song would ideally also be able to stand on its own. So I thought maybe I could use democracy itself as a kind of metaphor.

Like political systems, people also are not perfect. Sir Winston Churchill wasn’t, and I’m not either. But as it happens, the ideals behind modern liberal democracy are also ideals that I hold dear – openness, accountability, human rights, sharing power, freedom…. And, of course, ideals require some sacrifices. Sharing power means giving up one’s own notions of power; it means not always being able to have your own way. These sacrifices are worthwhile, though, because of the greater importance and priority of the ideals.

I have released my song ‘Like Democracy’ in several versions, and in various ways. There is the latest, commercially available version, which can be heard on Spotify or Napster or Tidal or Deezer or YouTube or various other streaming services, and which is also available for purchase via Amazon or iTunes and other digital music distribution services. There is another version of Like Democracy available for upload right on this site (under the ‘Educational’ tab, choose ‘Curriculum Songs’ from the drop-down menu), and another one on my YouTube channel. The lyrics are available on this website too, just below the website recording of the song.

On this website, also on the ‘Educational Tab’, there’s a Question Sheets Related segment in the dropdown menu that also uses the song Like Democracy for exploring ideas related to human rights, specifically the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For me, the main significant lines in Like Democracy are

“I wanna be like democracy,
Give my friends a chance to reach the top.
Sometimes things might go wrong,
Sometimes people let you down,
So then I also wanna have a way to stop.”
This brings out the political idea of power being in the hands of the people, rather than in the hands of a leader. Also, on a personal level, it is about both trust and a willingness to change.

2. “I wanna bring out the best in people,
I wanna know about the worst.
I wanna blend love, mercy, and justice,
And the right kinds of hunger and thirst.”
This is about how the idea of sharing power politically, along with providing freedom, gives people the opportunity to come up with new ideas and contribute to society and each other.
On the other hand, it is about how an open society with a free press and political opposition parties provides accountability. True democracy is only viable when people know what their choices are.
On a personal level, it’s about honest relationship and caring. “The right kinds of hunger and thirst” is a spiritual reference to a “hunger and thirst after righteousness” – in other words, for right and equitable living in authentic community.

And finally,
3. “And I would take love over fear,
Even at the risk I might get hurt.
No true affection in the voice
Of one who hasn’t got a choice,
So I’ll give up control or even lose my shirt.”

One of the ways in which dictators maintain control of their societies is through the use of fear and force. The idea of choice is frightening to dictators, because they perceive any action which represents ideas different from their own as a threat to their power. Real democracy encourages choice. It allows for different ideas to emerge, in the hope that a full discussion of possibilities can result in ultimately better decisions being made, even if there are some difficult moments in the meantime.
On a personal level, I too want to be willing to take risks in relationship. Coercion and love are different things, and it’s the real thing that I’m interested in. So since there’s “no true affection in the voice of one who hasn’t got a choice,” I have to be willing to take loss if what I really want is love. It can’t be coerced.

I first wrote ‘Like Democracy’ around 10 years ago. It’s still one of my favourite songs of all those that I have written.

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I Lie To You Sometimes; The Song

Truth. Trust. Fear. Vulnerability. Those are a tough mix to work with. That’s what ‘I Lie To You Sometimes’ is about.

The song is like a kind of confession – a partial confession. It isn’t a perfect expression of vulnerability and trust – in fact, it lays a bit too much of the onus for relationship on the other. But our confessions are seldom whole, and I for one am not always fully fearless and open about expressing the times when I am not ‘fine’. And really, the lies this song is talking about are those sorts of lies – the ‘little’ lies about being okay when in actual fact okay-ness is not quite settled. It’s about not having important and open conversations, and just letting the comfortable status quo rule the day, and then in the long run paying the price of feeling misunderstood and alone.

By the end of the song, the ‘voice’ of the song is starting to reach out, although not fully taking ownership of fault in the stagnation of the relationship and moving to full emotional honesty and availability. There’s still a kind of self-protective emotional blame game involved.

In real life we aren’t perfect. A song doesn’t have to reflect perfection and resolution. If a person is alive, a person is in process – and a song should reflect that reality. I feel that we have a tendency in our time to rush to a kind of false resolution, to not allow a real emotional process to occur. I may, for example, know how I ‘should’ feel, and therefore try to claim that ideal state of being instead of allowing my emotions to really get worked out. Our general sense of being ‘busy’ and wanting to be ‘efficient’ may work into this trap as well.

The difficulty with rushing to a false emotional resolution is that the real process can get undermined and go unconscious, so that I might in some ways act out the emotions that I still feel but am denying. That can’t be healthy – there has to be some middle ground. In being committed to honest relationships, we give ourselves – and our significant others – the opportunity to really go through those internal processes, and honestly arrive at real resolutions in a more natural timeline.

Here are my lyrics;

I lie to you sometimes
try to hide the things inside
try to slide atop the tide
yeah, and take you for a ride

Don’t want you looking at my soul
You might see that I’m not whole
Might find ashes, might find coal
where you thought you would find gold

I lie to you sometimes
– no looking at my soul!
I lie to you sometimes
I lie to you sometimes

I lie to you
try to hide the things insdie
try to slide atop the tide
yeah, and take you for a ride

It seems easier this way
seems like everything’s okay
and we talk about the weather
’cause there’s nothing else to say

Don’t get sad, and don’t get close
’cause that’s what I hate the most
makes me uneasy and morose
makes me take a double dose

Makes me deal with the pain
makes me have to start again
– does that mean things will get better
or will sunshine turn to rain?

I lie to you sometimes
– no looking at my soul!
I lie to you sometimes
I lie to you sometimes
… you know

I lie to you
please don’t believe the words I say
because the greatest price I pay
is when you smile and walk away

I lie to you sometimes
Please don’t believe the words I say
because the greatest price I pay

… is when you smile and walk away

(The chorus here is supposed to be like an emotional pivot point, at each repetition leading to a direction of greater self-awareness and taking some more ownership for honesty and a healthy relationship, even with risk)

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